Releases > Releases APRIL 2019

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A Lifetime of Happiness
Own Label, 10 Tracks, 49 Minutes
Daoirí Farrell is almost single-handedly spearheading a resurgence of the authentic in Irish Folk music. Unafraid to tackle big traditional songs or difficult topics, he is rightly in demand all over the world. This new album will be welcomed by legions of fans. The recording was done in bigger studios with a big name producer, Dónal Lunny no less, and they’ve made a truly timeless album together.
Lunny has faithfully captured both Daoirí’s expressive voice and his Joe Foley bouzouki; his trade marks, both Dublin made, both unquestionably Irish. His songs come from a range of sources, all of which are detailed in the exemplary liner notes, they include all the words. Daoirí implores us to sing the songs ourselves; it is an easy task to sing along with him. The first song out of the trap is The Galway Shawl; its opening notes on the zook summon the spirit of Andy Irvine and then Daoirí’s voice kicks in. He extends phrases; there are note shortened trills at the end of lines, techniques familiar to students of sean–nos. There are songs from the north of Ireland, a Hare hunting song the Hills of Granemore and a love song Sweet Portadown. There’s humour, there always is humour in a Farrell album, in the song The Pint of Plain. He nails down a Cathal MacConnell drinking song Not The Day a reworking of the Irish Nil ‘Na Lá. There’s a big romping highwayman ballad, Valentine O’Hara, like a script for a Barry Lyndon movie with cutting 18th century English, and true to form it ends in a hanging. The production by Dónal Lunny is remarkable; there is hardly any space between tracks, the merest fraction of a second, yet the effect is not hurried or breathless. The whole album flows. Like driving through the night with every roundabout empty and all the traffic lights on green. Daoirí’s title refers to the Life Time of Happiness we get from an involvement in music. Farrell’s fans, and I count myself as one, will be delighted with this album. The legacies of Weldon, Harte and Irvine are in fine hands and the best of voices.
Seán Laffey

Hotel Fiesta
Own Label, 12 Tracks, 56 Minutes and
Harking back to their days on the road, before fame and fortune came along in the shape of supergroups Altan and 4 Men & a Dog, Tourish and Doherty have recreated a simple sound, with a little help from Percy Robinson on dobro, which captures that early Fiesta cocktail of Donegal fiddle, Dylan and Van Morrison, straight trad and swing, evenly split between songs and tunes. These strands have been woven into Ciaran and Kevin’s music with various line-ups, simply re-visiting The Dusty Miller and Bloomsday, or subtly applying their blend of old and new styles to Frank McGuinness’ Donegal or Jackson’s 1 & 2.
Doherty’s songs are as pretty and as pointed as ever: the grit of Hawker’s Blues, the sweetness of Who Can I Turn To? the picaresque nostalgia of Donegal. The duo makes a fine fist of Boots of Spanish Leather, and the final title song is a driving Irish country ballad with Doherty’s drawling lyrics raising many a wry smile. Ciaran’s fiddle powers through reels and jigs, and is supplemented by tasteful whistle and mandolin. There’s an oldtimey feel to Dan the Man, and a graceful charm to the whistle air Úr Chnoc Chéin Mhic Cáinte, both Tourish compositions. Kevin accompanies the tunes and songs on guitar and keyboards, giving plenty of lift to every track. Between them, Doherty and Tourish produce an easy hour of varied and highly entertaining music.
Alex Monaghan

Live Recordings from the William Kennedy Piping Festival
Own Label WKPFCD003, 78 & 77 Minutes (2 CDs ) 36 Tracks
A double CD of music captured in Armagh at various William Kennedy Festivals (from 2003 to 2017), by the Irish Traditional Music Archive field recording unit. This is a carefully curated compilation of international piping in the 21st century. The definition of curated is selected, organized, and presented using professional or expert knowledge, Caomhin Vallely who researched and produced this double-album fits this description perfectly. His liner booklet is a model of clarity, and is fascinating, with not only notes on the tunes and the pipers but their pipes as well, down to the makers of the parts of some sets.
Musically this is as eclectic as the festival itself, with pipers from all the Celtic traditions and beyond. Sean McKeown has the honour of opening the album with two double jigs, The Maid on the Green and the Humours of Glin, played on a set of Cillian O’Briain pipes, from a live recording made at the 2008 festival. Anxo Lorenzo Band from Galicia joined by Eoghan Neff close the second CD with a medley of tunes that includes the Humours of Tulla. In between there are live recordings of Cape Breton pipers (Angus MacKenzie) a Scottish Small Piper (Anna Murray), a Northumbrian piper (Andy May), Breton Pipers (Loic and Ronan Bléjean) and more. Caoimhin Vallely, applies a def hand, selecting the best tracks from what one assumes must be hundreds of hours of live performances. His own humble words sum up the love of piping that oozes out of the Armagh Pipers Club, when he writes: ‘It is thanks to the Irish Traditional Music Archive and Glenn Comiskey that we have this unique and valuable resource and it is thanks also to the generosity of the pipers over the years who have given us their permission to release these recordings and bring them to a wider audience than could ever attend the actual festival.”
A full list of the musicians is on the Armagh Pipers Club website, a visit is a must. The next William Kennedy Festival runs from 14-17 November 2019; start booking your accommodation in Armagh now.
Seán Laffey

Own label, 10 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Corcra marks Gráinne Holland’s third album; the first to comprise all her own original songs mostly in the Irish language. Singer Damien Dempsey has compared her voice to the “swoop and glide of a swallow in a sublime Irish summer”. Born and raised in Belfast, Gráinne attended an Irish-medium school and found a natural milieu for her lovely voice within the songs of the Irish language. All of this is lyrically evident across her first two highly acclaimed albums Teanga na nGael and Gaelré under the Gael Linn label.
This current album Corcra, produced by renowned musician Brian Finnegan, recorded by Seán Óg Graham with the best of musicians including Aidan O’Rourke, Liam Bradley, Brendan Mulholland, Cormac McCarthy, Niamh Dunne, John Joe Kelly, Paul Dunlea, Conor McCreanor and Steve Jones. In songs inspired by life, love, grief and loss, motherhood and nature, Gráinne’s music echoes a new explorative dynamic in Irish music, where traditional songs are lent cutting edge contemporary arrangements.  The album showcases a really interesting cultural moment in creative Irish music as evidenced by bands like Seo Linn from Lurgan. Béal Feirste is Gráinne’s strong testimonial to her native Belfast. She wrote Coinsias, Corp agus Croí in the wake of a very dark time in her life, a tender vulnerable quality in her voice, and the song is all the better for her letting that in. Gorgeous instrumentals also reflect the restored sense of feeling full alive again. Harry is a song tribute to Gráinne’s late father, unique, particular and all the more moving for that, but a sense of peace permeates it too. “Swim free where you’ll never feel cold, no one can hurt you and you’ll never grow old.” Corcra marks a commendable celebration of language and the emotional power of song to reach us all.
Deirdre Cronin

The Thursday Sessions at the Cobblestone Pub
Own Label, 14 Tracks, 55 Minutes
The Cobblestone in Dublin’s Smithfield Square is one of the city’s finest traditional music pubs, and owner Tom Mulligan has worked tirelessly to make it appealing to musicians and listeners alike. The main bar has no TV or other distractions, and live music is available from around 5pm on weekdays, and from lunchtime onwards at weekends. On Thursday evenings there are three distinct sessions - the early slot is a session of mainly Donegal tunes, hosted by sisters Catríona and Sinéad Kennedy on fiddles, followed by Jacqui Martin (fiddle) with Deirdre Hurley (flute) from around 7pm till 9:30pm, when uilleann piper Nollaig MacCarthaigh is joined by Ger Galvin (fiddle) to round off the evening.
Tom decided to gather all the session regulars together to record a CD, which reflects the various combinations frequently available on Thursdays. As all the musicians know each other very well after years of playing together, they were easily arranged in various groupings to provide a very diverse fourteen-track recording, giving the listener a comprehensive sample of the musical fare available on each night.
As the session anchors are all experienced and talented players, this provides a great nucleus for some uplifting sets of tunes, drawn from their wide repertoire, and unusually there is no accompaniment on the CD, so this is very much the “pure drop”. It would be unfair to single out any of the tracks, as this is very much a collective effort, and all participants are joined by Tom Mulligan himself for a rousing finale to finish the CD. Dotted among the additional musicians are some well-known players, notably ex-Altan fiddler Paul O’Shaughnessy who features here as a flautist. Also, there are two fine unaccompanied songs from Vincent Doherty and Antaine O’Farachain. A nice musical snapshot of the Cobblestone of a Thursday night!
Mark Lysaght

Gaelic Traditions in the New World
Own Label, 9 Tracks, 39 Minutes
In their debut album, the four members of Fàrsan bring an impressive array of sound, talent and accomplishments to give us what they call Gaelic Traditions in the New World. Their name, Fàrsan, is a Gàidhlig noun meaning to ramble, roam or rove, and that in a way is what they’ve done in coming together from their home places in north America and Scotland. They combine song, dance and instrumental music from Scotland and Cape Breton, and theirs is a distinctive blend of fiddle, pipes, whistles, piano and accordion with percussive stepdance and puirt-à-beul, providing us with a most appealing sound of purest musicality. They are: Màiri Britton, lead vocals and step dance, a native of Edinburgh; Katie McNally, fiddle, a native of Westford, Massachusetts; Neil Pearlman, piano, accordion, mandolin, step dance and vocals, from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia; and Elias Alexander, border and highland pipes, from Oregon.
Although she wasn’t raised speaking Gàidhlig, Màiri became fluent in the language and provides the group with most of their material from her vast knowledge of Gaelic song. With a double masters in Celtic and Scottish Studies from Edinburgh University, she combines performance with teaching at the St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, whose Celtic Studies Department is foremost in Canada, surely one of the loveliest Universities in the Maritimes.
The group’s presentation of songs sad, lively and thought-provoking, shows their remarkable ability to convey meaning and mood with honesty and grace. They perform Tàladh a’ Phuilein, a beautiful lullaby from Ness in the Isle of Lewis thatMàiri learned from the Mac Ìomhair family there. As it happens, I spent an evening in that fine Gaelic household while on a visit to Ness several years ago. After this exquisite rendering, Fàrsan deliver a spirited rendition of a song to do with a Christmas celebration, rounding it off with dance tunes in the spirit of the occasion. Following the lovely wedding song, A’ Bhanais Ainmeil, the group perform a moving rendition of Mas Dìochuimhnich Sinn … (‘Lest we forget’) a poignant remembrance song by WW2 soldier, Rod Mac Neil of Cape Breton. So as not to part on too sad a note, Fàrsan round off their triumphant debut album with a Shout for Joy, the translation of the title of a Gàidhlig song by the renowned Gaelic poet Donnchadh Bàn Mac an tSaoir (1724-1812). This and all the other songs in Gàidhlig are provided with informative notes and song words and with English language translation.
Aidan O’Hara

Caitriona O’LEARY
The Wexford Carols
Ireland’s Greatest Christmas Music
Heresy Records, Heresy 016, 12 Tracks, 60 Minutes
With her sophisticated style and unique delivery of Folk, Traditional and Early Music songs, Caitriona O’Leary is no ordinary chanteuse. Her most recent recording The Wexford Carols is a seasonal mix, and a collaborative work with guests: Grammy nominee Roseanne Cash, Welsh singer Rhiannon Giddens and Tom Jones.
The twelve carols, all centuries old, narrate the biblical Christian story, lyrics interwoven intricately with orchestral, sometimes folksy musical arrangement. Produced by Joe Henry and Heresy records, The Wexford Carols should be all-year-round recommended listening.
Catriona O’Leary takes the lead in An Angel This Night, string accompaniment and percussive perfection, her timing flawless, the unified and harmonised voices a delight. A plaintive flute introduces Behold Three Kings, a showcase number, an ethereal and compelling rendition. The renowned Welsh singer Tom Jones delivers a powerful version of Jerusalem Our Happy Home while fellow country-woman Rhiannon Giddens brings Christmas Day is Come to life with passion, verve and sincerity. This is Our Christmas Day is given a traditional treatment, innovative of phrase, quirky twists and turns in the melody.
Roseanne Cash heads up The Enniscorthy Christmas Carole, historically believed to have been collected and transcribed by Dr. William Grattan, from the Wexford oral tradition of the 12th Century, possibly the oldest surviving Christmas Carole in the European tradition (although there is much scholarly debate on this). This collaborative version breathes new life into a song that was anecdotally a male voice preserve. Here the three females and Tom Jones deliver a resounding final track to this really priceless album. The voice combinations, disparate styles, vocal ranges and crafty arrangements make Caitriona O’Leary’s recording a great community chorale rather than the sum of individual strands. Although the material is centuries old, there is nothing imitative here, she has made a new showcase window for a preciously extant manuscript.
Anne Marie Kennedy

Heritage Hall
Own Label, BWMCD002, 13 Tracks, 45 Minutes
Galway band BackWest’s new album Heritage Hall picks up two years after their debut The Long Walk and immediately takes the listener deep into the heart of the tradition with The Crooked Road to Dublin, acknowledging in the sleeve notes previous versions of the tune by Michael Coleman and Willie Clancy. Perhaps played with a slightly more modern twist than the aforementioned lads, it nonetheless sets up the listening experience of Heritage Hall which sees Maureen and Brendan Browne leading the melodic line on button accordion and fiddle, a joined-up natural synchronicity that only comes from a lifetime of playing together. Indeed, such is their closeness, that outro of the opening set probably only took one take to perfect, a tag worthy of Mairtín O’Connor and Frankie Gavin. As sure as there are reels, the jigs aren’t too far away and the next set takes aul Young Tom Ennis out for a trip in the O’Neill’s Set, a solid backbone of rhythm supplied by Fabian Joyce on guitar and Peter Vickers on percussion (we’re not told if there was any dancing from Mr Vickers during the making of this album!).
The blend of quality musicianship and variety extends throughout the whole musical journey with songs, marches, polkas, some Breton flair and a jaunty air, Liz Carroll’s The Fly and Dodger, giving this finely produced album by BackWest some wonderful texture.
As mentioned, the CD includes a number of songs, sensitively performed intermittently by Fabian and Maureen separately. American folk and old time traditions come into play here, with the Gordon Lightfoot ballad The Early Morning Rain sung by Fabian, while Maureen takes the lead on the group’s unique version of Lazy John before invoking a frightening similarity to Karan Casey on the familiar sea-faring tale told in Captain, Captain. Throughout the album, the accordion and fiddle share the limelight, with each subtly allowing the other to the fore every so often, no more so for the fiddle on The Green Fields of Glen Town, the hearty crunch of the bow on the low notes like a footstep on freshly-fallen snow. A very well-crafted album, with some sumptuous even voluptuous fiddle, and a deep understanding of their music evident on every track.
Derek Copley

Various Artists
Off Site Records, 13 Tracks, 55 Minutes
In the autumn of 2018, a group of singers, poets and musicians gathered in Barscobe House, Galloway, and what emerged was the Oran Bagraidh album that was released with a live show on 2 February 2019 at the Celtic Connections festival in Glasgow. It is a veritable musical kaleidoscope in song, tunes, airs and sounds in the Celtic tongues: Gàidhlig, Irish, and Welsh; also, some English and Scots vocals.The whole presentation is suffused with “northern triple-pipes and lyres, electronics, shimmering soundscapes and traditional instruments, juxtaposing the ancient with the very latest technology”. Katch Holmes was the Creative Producer. “When I talk about the project I talk about Irish, Scotch Gàidhlig, Scots, Welsh and English-speakers. They’re quite a diverse bunch that I possibly would not have naturally chosen or ended up with, working together.”
They came to work on a mysterious poem written in a lost form of Gaelic from Galloway that nobody could quite decipher. It is a medieval song believed to be the only surviving example of Galloway Gaelic, a distinct dialect spoken across South West Scotland for many hundreds of years until the 18th century. Galloway was a linguistically diverse area and in medieval times early Welsh, old English, and Norse were spoken alongside Gaelic. I recommend the CD for that track alone, but there’s more, much more besides from a talented lot on this high production values CD. They are: Award winning Scots/ Gaelic singer Josie Duncan; the Irish song archaeologist Lorcán Mac Mathúna; former Welsh poet laureate and singer Gwyneth Glyn; celebrated Irish Sean-Nós singer; Belfast fiddler Conor Caldwell; ancient instrument virtuoso Barnaby Brown; poet, singer and performance artist MacGillivray; widely published poet Rody Gorman; and medieval Welsh duo Bragod, all of whom have created work that is “surprising, authentic, rooted in history yet fresh and personal in perspective”. Need I say more?
Aidan O’Hara

Changeable Heart Pure Records, PRCD52, 10 Tracks, 37 Minutes
Take two young traditional folk singers, Ruth Notman from Nottingham and Sam Kelly from Norfolk, two distinct regional accents that mark out a North-South vocal partition of England (think Kate Rusby meets Ed Sheeran and you’d be close). Drop them into the Pure studio with some top-flight pals, including producer Damien O’Kane (who brings his banjo and baritone guitar to the party). Ross Ainslie on whistles with percussion from Josh Clark and Anthony Davis on Keys. Brew for a while and see what comes out. It’s as tasty as Yorkshire tea, that’s what it is.
It’s all good, no wonder, it comes from the Pure music stable, the studio that gave us O’Kane’s Avenging & Bright. Here the duo’s own song Brian of the Sussex Wold has that same ambitious sweep. The album title track is a love duet with a repeated phrase of “Just to tell you how lovely you are”. Classic folk songs are given a new suit of clothes in Kelly’s version of My Lagan Love and Sweet Lass Richmond Hill. Notman’s voice comes out as the strongest of the pair and she excels on Caw the Yowes and The Cunning Cobbler, her version of MacColl’s School Days Over digs deep into the roots of the British folk song revival. The album runs to its gentle conclusion with Sam Kelly taking the first verse of Paul Brady’s The Island, then Ruth leads us into glory as they walk into the sunset singing the final verse and chorus together. Two young talents maturing with taste.
Seán Laffey

Simple Drop of Rain 11 Tracks, 40 Minutes
“Don’t be afraid to ramble/cos life is nothing but a gamble…” is how Michael Darcy kicks off his album Simple Drop of Rain. Ballad of Rambling Man is the title of that opening track from the man from County Clare. With all 11 songs on the album written by Michael, the opener relates to his emigrating from Ireland’s west coast, to make a new life in Toronto, Canada, and so he imparts the message for all would-be travellers to take the leap and ‘don’t be afraid’!
Having been reared from the age of 6 as an accordion player and steeped in the world of traditional Irish music, it was listening to Christy Moore that put a young Michael Darcy onto the guitar, which then took him on a journey which sees his debut album with a heavy country-fused sound.
The title track, Simple Drop of Rain is on paper a strange one for a Clare man to write, given the west coast’s affinity with adverse weather, but while this emigrant’s heart doesn’t quite ache for the driving rain, he does admit that “there’s just something about a simple drop of rain”. In a similar yet modern take on the theme written about by Ralph McTell in From Clare to Here, Darcy sings about learning “to play the card of the charming Irish rogue” with the ladies on Yonge Street in Toronto, but nonetheless ends up singing with pride: “my heart can always find its way back home”.
Recorded in Toronto by Aaron Comeau, who also guests on the album, Darcy has amassed a band of musicians from the Toronto music scene, of which he has become a familiar figure. A comforting country sound resonates throughout, with organ, dobro, pedal steel, banjo and mandolin back up by drums, as Michael Darcy’s honest lyrics are indicative of the classic country song, like on Give Me Strength as he implores to his muse, “put your trust in faith… all I know is I’m in love with you”, or on Restless Weary Wanderer, who’s “still trying to fly” and who hopes “that hope follows me, as I say goodbye”.
Although having settled a good number of years in Canada and adopting a country theme, there is little hint of Americana in Michael’s voice, the Banner accent holding its own. On this album Michael Darcy is the epitome of the restless weary wanderer.
Derek Copley

Leaves That Fly
KRO 1CD 2018, 11 Tracks, 44 Minutes
Kim hails from the Scottish Highlands and has been playing music as she says “all her life” having been brought up in a musical home and she feels that she has been writing music since childhood. This has been consolidated by some serious musical training and in latter years by her regular immersion in music back in Ullapool.
Most of the tracks on offer here are from Kim’s own pen and range over a wide spectrum of subjects but all reflect some sort of journey.
She tells us that The Mermaid was inspired by reading The Mermaid Wife a lovely folk tale that she has transformed into a wonderful song. Many of her songs seem to flow from nature no doubt inspired by her native surroundings. The titles alone give us a feeling of that wild, wide open space. The tracks include When the Leaves Blow and the evocative Footprints in the Snow.
For Ballad of Autumn she sets the words of Andrew Lang, a poet and collector of fairy tales, to her own music with great effect. She leaves dry land on Shallow Brown to take us through her interpretation of a sea shanty in a spare production. Kieran Halpin’s Nothing to Show For It All is one of my favourite tracks on offer here and Kim’s clear cool voice gives a whole new sound divorced from what we are more used to. Walk the Road has a magical introduction that is built upon by her writing and performance on the song. There are no composing credits on show for Shore, just a simple recording of water on the shore. Kim Richards will entrance you with her crystal clear voice and inspired choice of others works that enhance her own compositions.
Nicky Rossiter

Broadstone Belle
12 Tracks, 51 Minutes
Marion is a sort of Renaissance woman of the arts in Ireland, being a talented singer and songwriter, but also a playwright with work staged internationally. This is the first time that I have experienced her musical output and I must declare that it is impressive with eleven of the twelve tracks coming from her own pen. An album of all new music is a major undertaking because the listener has to buy a lot on trust and a name. In this instance the trust is rewarded with some excellent tracks that will entertain but also in some ways educate as all good music should.
Black and White Lives is a case in point with heartfelt lyrics beautifully allied to the musical accompaniment. The song will enchant the listener as it reminds us of the reality of life. Marion mines the Irish past to bring events and people to life in an incomparable fashion. Oiche na Gaoithe brings us back almost two centuries to recall The Big Wind, a hurricane that devastated parts of Ireland in 1839. She incorporates the legends of mermaids and the Northern Lights into a haunting song. On the beautiful Song for Anna she brings to vivid life the work of a little known character from our history. The lady in question is Anna Parnell a great Irish activist whose life was completely overshadowed by her “better known” brother Charles Stewart Parnell. It is great to find this hidden gem of history in a diamond of a song. Her offerings here range through Irish history as well as her personal family history with songs about friends and relations including the titular Broadstone Belle celebrating her mother which is performed with a beautiful verve that can only come when one sings a song close to heart. She follows this with The Reaper a song she dedicates to her grandfather and her daughter Cathy, the latter plays fiddle to great effect on the album. The only song not composed by Marion is a beautiful My Last Song which was written by as we are told in the notes the late Mick Fitzgerald and is one of the stand out tracks in performance and production. Once again this is an album that is worth checking out, you will not be disappointed.
Nicky Rossiter

Own Label GHI02, 11 Tracks, 46 Minutes
On the Scottish accordion scene for a long time now, but really coming to prominence over the last few years as the box-player with highland supergroup Mànran and as presenter of Radio Scotland’s Take the Floor, Gary has released two albums in quick succession to showcase some of his many talents. Both feature almost exclusively Gary’s own compositions, tunes and songs, and enlist the help of a number of fine singers and musicians. Imminent has the added bonus - if I can call it that - of Innes himself on lead vocals for the encouraging Starlight with modern technical effects aplenty.
Despite the newness of this material and the contemporary feel of tracks like Valley Superstar or The Alpha Runrig, there’s a lot of traditional heart and soul to Gary’s music. The Sheerwater puts me in mind of Phil Cunningham in reflective mood. Welcome to New York could be straight from a Blair Douglas playbook. There’s a distinctive West Coast lilt to the swaggering Doctor’s Orders, and a final burst of piano box brilliance on the strathspey and reels of Persistence Pays Off. Karen Matheson sings the bittersweet Swan Song, and Ross Wilson’s raw vocals cut through an almost classical accompaniment on the thought-provoking Dream Fields. Several guest musicians do a fine job on Imminent, backing up Gary Innes to make a stirring and very varied album. If you get a physical copy, the sleeve is great too!
Alex Monaghan

Amhrán na Cruite: Songs of the Harp
Own label, 12 Tracks, 55 Minutes
The name Minnesota means Sky-blue water. Bright and spring-like is this collection from Hannah Flowers, a native of Saint Paul Minnesota, who has been playing harp since she was two. She has spent time in Donegal learning Irish (extremely well) and in Kilkenny and other spots studying harp. The results must be counted as a huge success. The real proof is in the selection of tracks, totally bull’s-eye. I well remember university lecturers in Galway who said the best, most lyrical and idiomatic Irish was to be found in the old songs. Hannah is proof of this. She has a classic collection of 12 Irish language song/poems, natural and unvarnished, sung with excellent diction. Not a hint of a synthesiser within an ass’s roar, thank God. I would argue this material is so perfect for teaching (it covers more than five years of second-level school syllabus), and if you did take it as the text book you might unwittingly gloss over the artistry bubbling beneath it. And that would be a pity. The words of the songs are all provided, and it would be a great bonus if every young piper who was learning say, Bean Dubh a’ Ghleanna could learn the words, as supplied here.
Hannah counts Liz Carroll and Daithí Sproule among her mentors. Certainly she has done them proud with this classic.
John Brophy

I Never Met You,
Own Label, 19 Tracks, 67 Minutes Email:
Richard Mulligan grew up between Kilkerrin and Glenamaddy; this is a rural Ireland, which has had a 70-year love affair with a certain indigenous brand of country music.
Richard plays nostalgic homage to his homeplace on the waltz Kilkerrin My Hometown, a geographical love letter to a spot “where he played as a boy”. Four Country Roads and Somewhere in Connemara, both reflecting his roots in the west of Ireland; the latter is a sad lament from the perspective of an exiled emigrant who longs for his love back home.
The title track is the seventh on the album; it is an Irish-county flavoured ballad, with honky-tonk overtones and a dance hall rhythm, where Richard tells the story of his adoption at the age of three, having never met his birth mother. He slows things down on The Wind on The Hill; there’s some lonesome Hill-Billy fiddle here. Richard calls on the services of two fiddlers on the album, Sarah May Rogers and Anna-Mary Donaghy. In fact he has a full band to call on: Christian Volkmann on harmonica and Anthony Wade on mandolin & banjo add the necessary country chops to many of the tracks. Whilst Marguerite Collins adds an Irish flute, Eoghan O’Donnell is on piano and keyboards. Graham Watson is the busiest as he plays guitar, bass and drums, and as much of the material here would work with a crossroads social dance his contribution is essential.
Like many Irish country artists there’s the obligatory cover version of Wagon Wheel and Richard does a grand job of this. I can see it going down well live. All the tracks come with publisher details and he has licensed the work through MCPS, a thoroughly professional approach to CD production. Richard proves himself on this album as an accomplished performer of country classics and an original writer in this popular genre.
Seán Laffey

Those Who Roam
Luckenbooth, 10 Tracks, 40 Minutes
Thanks to the acclaimed Scottish folksinger, Claire Hastings, I just had a crystal clear reminder of the joyous aspects of reviewing good music. In listening to Claire’s new CD Those Who Roam, and her interpretation of the wonderful 18th century song Logie O’Buchan, a singer friend of mine popped in and had an immediate gut level response: “There is so much music inside that voice; that artist is way more than simply a good singer.”
Based in Glasgow, Claire Hastings is also a songwriter and ukulele player. In 2015 she earned the prestigious title of BBC Radio Scotland’s Young Traditional Musician of the Year. Those Who Roam is a CD of songs of traditional and also a remarkable and vocally shining example of her own compositions. They sit in perfect harmony with canonical Scottish songs like The Lothian Hairst, 19th century song, where the magnificently rich melodic balance of fiddle, piano, accordion and guitar reflect and echo the working rhythms of the scything squads from Aberdeen to Leith.
Claire’s own Noble Helen of Cluden is remarkable on many levels. It’s a story based on Sir Walter Scott’s novel, Heart of Midlothian. The pure clarity of Claire’s voice illuminates the story to perfection, Helen’s long walk to London for the love of her sister. Every song deserves its shining place. Seven Gypsies is linked to Claire’s native Dumfries. Jamie Raeburn and Logie O’ Buchan are vocally full of life and pathos. The album features accomplished musicians Jenn Butterworth (guitar), Laura Wilkie (fiddle), Thomas Gibbs (piano), Andrew Waite (accordion). Produced by Inge Thomson. To paraphrase Claire’s own poetic line ‘the pardon she was granted by the power of his grace’, this enduring album is enriched and enlivened by the power of Claire Hastings’ voice. Those Who Roam walks the walk, deserves every success.
Deirdre Cronin